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Sensitive Periods for Learning

The Absorbent Mind

Maria Montessori believed that every human being went through a quantum leap in learning during the preschool years. She felt this was especially true from birth to the first few years of life. The years when a child learns language is surely a profound and mysterious process of learning. The urges that a baby has to sit up, crawl, and walk are also stages of development that are innate. Montessori called this process of learning and behavior norms as the sensitive periods. During a sensitive period it is very easy to teach children certain concepts that later on will be somewhat more difficult for an older child to learn. Dr. Montessori believed that a child was the teacher in that we should observe our children to know what stage of learning or sensitive period they are in. Here is the most used chart for the sensitive periods in the Montessori approach:

Sensitive Periods for learning
Birth to 3 years:
The absorbent mind-the mind soaks up information like a sponge
Sensory learning and experiences: The child uses all five senses-touch, taste, feel, sight, and hearing-to understand and absorb information about his or her environment

1 ½ to 3 years:
Language explosion-a child builds his or her future foundation for language at this period.

1 ½ to 4 years:
Development and coordination of fine and large muscle skills, advanced developing grasp and release skill spawns an interest in any small object (usually dangerous ones on the floor).

2 to 4 years:
Very mobile with greater coordination and refinement of movement, increased interest in language and communication (they love to tell stories- true or not!), aware of spatial relationships, matching, sequence and order of objects

2 ½ to 6 years:
Works well incorporating all five senses for learning and adapting to environment

3 to 6 years:
Interest and admiration of the adult world, they want to copy and mimic adults-such as parents and teachers. One of the few times most children are very open to their parents and other adults.

4 to 5 years:
Using one’s hands and fingers in cutting, writing and art. Their tactile senses are very developed and acute.

4 ½ to 6 years:
Reading and math readiness, and eventually, reading and math skills.

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